I am a Canadian watercolourist and have been painting landscapes, florals, and buildings with lots of character for over 30 years. I especially enjoy scenes that are sunshiny days with dancing shadows across the landscape or buildings.
While watercolour is my preferred medium, I do enjoy trying my hand at various other mediums, like this painting, Guardian of Thornloe, where I used watercolour crayons on stretched canvas.
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Here’s how this piece came about:
The scene above is a small place called Thornloe Ontario, near where I live in North Eastern Ontario. The vastness of this spectacular landscape goes on and on with wide open fields of farms framed by hills in the distance. When the sun hits the landscape just right, it is a splendorous moment indeed.
This particular landscape above has been calling me for some time. I drive pass this place along highway 11, a number of times when going shopping and driving back home which is just past Earlton ON.
Most of those times I didn’t have my camera and would tell myself to remember to bring it next time—otherwise this painting would never happen.
Finally, another sunshiny day came along, and I happened to be driving along on Hwy 11. Slowly I turned my glance to the left. . . my eyes fell upon the breathtaking vastness of the countryside. I could see far off into the distant, cool blue purple hills, warm and cool yellow sunshine peeking in and out of the trees creating the most wonderful shadows across the land.
Best of all, luck was with me—this time I had my camera!
Back in the studio, I knew I wanted to try something different for this painting. I had never used watercolour crayons on stretched canvas, but I decided to give the crayons a try; nothing ventured nothing gained, right?
For my first attempt, I tried using the crayons on the canvas as is (no wetting) but I did not care for the texture it left behind, especially in the sky area.
Next I tried wetting the crayon with water and then using a damp brush to blend and spread the colour across the canvas. It felt right, so I went with it. I used cooler colours for the distant hills, adding hints of warmer tones here and there in areas where the sun kept peeking through trees, creating marvelous shadows.
I had to make sure the light and shadows on the distant buildings didn’t come off too strong, and to add to the feeling of distance, I used increasingly warm colours to pull things forward in the foreground.
Finally, as I was getting closer to near foreground, I decided to add some collage for the rocks, instead of simply painting them.
I wanted to show the weight of the Inukshuk (the stone landmark in the foreground) giving him a big and powerful stance that makes him stand up off the canvas, while at the same time keeping the ground rocks feel situated on the ground as they should.
I use more bits and pieces of handmade paper whereever I felt it needed more weight or texture; the “Guardian” had to really stand out on its own. I kept thinking about the importance of lights, darks, lit-up areas, and shadows, by working in the crevices and all the nooks and crannies to situate the heavy rocks on top of each other so he would take form.
All the while I used that collage technique with the paper, I was also using the watercolour crayons to paint the over the paper to create the huge boulders of Guardian of Thornloe.
Remember to look for those for lights and darks, and warm and cool areas in your own paintings, to give it that push and pull effect; it will always give you that sense of distance that you want.
Thanks for letting me share my process—I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
-Artist, Alice Y. Seguin Sawicki